(photo credit: “Firebird” by Brian Demint) These Feathered Flames, the first book in a duology by Alexandra Overy, is a fascinating and imaginative adaptation of the Russian ballet, The Firebird. Twin princesses of Tourin, Izaveta and Asya, are destined for two starkly different lives which begin when they are separated at a young age. Izaveta is groomed to be the future queen while Asya is taken away to be trained as the next Firebird. Years later, the unexpected and premature death of their mother, the queen, not only sets in motion their ascensions but accelerates the imbalance of magic that has been slowly draining Tourin of its power. Working together may be the only way Izaveta and Asya will be able to fully assume the mantels of queen and Firebird and fight off the threats both within and from outside the monarchy, yet their own internal machinations may be what ultimately destroys them both.
Alexandra Overy has created a stunningly rich and intriguing world in These Feathered Flames that brings to life Stravinsky’s famous ballet, The Firebird. I loved the attention to detail that immersed you in an ancient Russia inspired world. I also enjoyed how the story was told equally from the point of view of both sisters who grew up with an unusually close bond, but the effects of their training after they were separated creates in them a distrust of everyone and everything, leading to a belief that the other may have aspirations for ultimate power and control. This perspective provides two storylines that are unique to each character yet intricately interwoven with the main plot. As they each develop love interests, Izaveta in a visiting scholar and Asya in the female guard tasked with tracking her every movement, they struggle with their own internal emotional battles as well as trying to combat the attacks on the crown and their lives, making this also a tale with both intimate and epic implications. Ultimately, they must decide where they stand with each other, their respective love interests, and the kingdom.
However, all of the wonderful things about this story could not compensate for the fact that Overt did not just leave me hanging at the end, she completely kicked me off of the cliff. These Feathered Flames is a story of complex intrigue and relentlessly high tension from page one. Overt rarely gives you a reprieve from the anxiety and entangled conspiracy web, even though it is spread between physical and psychological conflicts, both personal and within the court, involving one sister or the other. I believe that reading a book initiates a relationship with the author. As with any relationship there should be give and take by both sides for it to be a satisfying affiliation. After experiencing anxiety and uncertainty, chapter after chapter, I was needing some serious resolution at the end. No such luck. Adding insult to injury, the second installment, This Cursed Crown, won’t be released until sometime in 2022.